So this week I have set an intention for myself and I have been trying to be a bit kinder and more compassionate to others around me, knowing everyone is "fighting their own battle" if you will. As soon as I set that intention I began seeing God winks on the subject (see previous post about God winks, or send me a message and we can talk about it)
I also have my own battles and one that can from time to time take center stage and become all consuming is called anxiety. I am not just a nervous person, or stressed out. I have in the past been medicated to help me deal with my anxiety, I have also in the past not been medicated and struggled immensely with the same anxieties. So I set my intention based on the idea that I can only control what I put out into the world and so I am going to try and make it as positive and loving as possible.
I am sharing this because in my community right now there in a initiative in place through our phone company call the Bell let's talk day and I have been hearing a lot about mental illness recently.
I have been hearing a lot of the same words being used (all well intentioned) but when we talk about mental health we use words like "he IS OCD - She IS ADHD - He IS bipolar" It's the idea that someone is defined by their illness. No one IS the flu or IS cancer. They have the flu or have a cancer. And again for mental illness the words we a use are; this person IS depresssed or IS post traumatic stress. People with mental illness become defined by their illness when in reality the illness it just a tiny part of who they are.
We also use words like suffer. We SUFFER from mental illness. Some people do suffer through their mental illness , however with support and treatment we can live with mental illness and the support comes from being able to talk about, to freely admit we have a mental illness to seek out help without shame.
It is ok to say, I or someone in my family has or has had the flu, MS, cancer, a broken leg, insert your illness of choice. However as soon as we talk about mental health it becomes taboo. It's only ok to talk about it in the third person, or in general terms.
And now you may wonder how does this all work its way back to yoga?
Well that is an excellent question!
Yoga teaches us to study our own selves (svadhyaya - that's a niyama, you can google it is you want to know more or check out The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele, it's a great book)
So when we learn about our own selves, we realize that we are not the body we live in, we are not our gender, our job, our culture or our heritage, we are not our roles, all those things are packaging.
If you imagine yourself as a precious gift, like a diamond and you are wrapped in a box, the box is your body, your gender, the roles you identify yourself with, the values you carry... Your gift is probably also wrapped in pretty paper with ribbons and bows, but those are just what the outside world sees, the ribbons and bows are not who we are, they are just the outer wrappings, how we present ourselves.
Now with that in mind. Yoga has taught be that I am not my mental health, I am not Anxious, I am not ADHD, (I have been diagnosed with these things) Those are just words, they are my boxes, they are part of the wrappings and bows and boxes my self lives in but they do not define who I am.
I , just like you, just like every sentient being is truth, is the universe, is consciousness, I am whole, and perfect in my imperfections.
Now I know that these thoughts may not be welcomed by everyone and I know not everyone will "get it"
But here is the thing - mean people suck- and we can all be mean (trust me on this we have all been mean before), so the next time you are having a bad day and you are about to take it out on someone else or if you don't agree with the comments being made, please remember we are all just walking each other home. We are all family, we are all the same and remember to take a moment to study yourself and see if maybe the people around you need a bit more kindness and compassion on their journey - mentally ill or not because let's face it, we are all facing our own demons (and maybe the person who needs a bit of kindness and compassion is you - feel free to love yourself BTW)